By Gabe Toro | The Playlist February 24, 2013 at 12:54PM
So far, 2013 is trailing 2012 in box office receipts, allowing “Identity Thief” to celebrate the spoils of war. The comedy is slated to become the highest grossing film of 2013 within days (beating out “Django Unchained,” which is actually a 2012 release), and this weekend it romped over a couple of weak newcomers to reclaim the top spot at the box office. While audiences certainly have responded to the pratfall-heavy comedy, it’s also faced a number of un-appetizing competitors at the marketplace, and has benefited greatly from being the only big comedy in wide release. This is not hit-making as much as it's filling a need: people love to laugh, and comedies are a “genre” that ain’t going out of style. As major studios release less and less product each year, there’s going to be a vacuum for stuff like “Identity Thief” to make a mint.
Finishing in a respectable second place was Dwayne Johnson’s star vehicle “Snitch.” Johnson’s already established an A-List presence in franchises, with his last films being global blockbusters “Fast Five” and “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island,” but his last solo effort, “Faster,” flopped like a misfired squib. With Johnson having established his bonafides (he’s got “G.I. Joe: Retaliation,” “Fast And Furious 6” and “Pain And Gain” on the way), this certainly seems like one of his smaller projects, and was received thusly.
But unlike “Faster,” this finished within the $12-$15 million wheelhouse for off-brand star vehicles, when the audience and performer are in agreement that this is a detour in between bigger films. It’s not a blockbuster (and at a $14 million cost, it doesn’t need to be) but this is more about Johnson staying within circulation and Summit scoring some tidy DVD money than it is about busting some blocks. Though, anecdotally, we wonder if the combination of title and the heroic nature of Johnson’s character went over well in urban markets. A ‘B’ Cinemascore suggests maybe not, though we doubt Cinemascore knows anything about urban markets anyway.
Still playing to the romantics was “Safe Haven,” with $48 million through 11 days it's on its way to being one of the top Nicholas Sparks adaptations. These movies don’t cost much, and the guy’s a cottage industry, so it's just extra extra gravy and just another reason to keep green lighting one adaptation after another. “Escape From Planet Earth” continues to be the only option for families who refuse to take their kids to a library, and it boasted a hold similar to most kiddie flicks. Again, filling a need: the last big animated film was “Rise of the Guardians,” which limped its way through the holiday season, so clearly this demographic was underserved.
Face-planting out of first was “A Good Day to Die Hard.” The hardcores contributed to the film’s moderately big opening and generous Cinemascore, but this massive drop suggests casual action fans (some of whom were at “Snitch”) weren’t about to be played for a fool. The picture is doing well overseas, and the budget on this suggested Fox knew that’s where they were going to make their money, as it may not even cross $100 million stateside. Of course, there’s no way to win: if the numbers are respectable, Bruce Willis and company will march ahead with a part six. And if the film loses steam abroad, it will fuel the inane “PG-13 is better than R” debate amongst the studios, with the fourth and most successful of the series being the only non-R-rated entry, and this film joining “Bullet to the Head” and “The Last Stand” amongst early year R-rated underperformers from “action icons.”
With a softer-than-expected debut, “Dark Skies” debuted outside of the top five, which makes sense given the “Paranormal Activity” attachments from the ads (same producer, Jason Blum) didn’t jibe with the extraterrestrial hook. From its title (which is apparently irrelevant) to the nondescript plot to its no-frills cast, this looked inherently shippable to the core audience. Horror is consistently top-heavy, so whatever cheddar was gonna be scored will happen before next weekend when “The Last Exorcism Part II” hits theaters.
Again with the lowest drop in the top ten was “Silver Linings Playbook,” which has been roughly at the same level the last couple of weekends, which is pretty impressive. People have really made an effort to really see the Best Picture nominees this year (unless they’re in a foreign language, god forbid), and 'Playbook' has benefited from that curiosity to pass nine figures even before a potential win or two. It hung around over “Warm Bodies,” which has been even healthier than its title projects, even jumping over the meek second weekend for fellow YA adaptation “Beautiful Creatures.” That teen fantasy is already on its way out of the public consciousness after loudly belly flopping on Valentine’s Day.
1. Identity Thief (Universal) - $13.4 million ($93 mil.)
2. Sscratch (Lionsgate/Summit) - $12.4 million
3. Safe Haven (Relativity) - $10.8 million ($48 mil.)
4. Escape From Planet Earth (The Weinstein Company) - $10.4 million ($35 mil.)
5. A Good Day To Listlessly Count Paychecks (Fox) - $10 million ($52 mil.) 6. Dark Skies (The Weinstein Company/Dimension) - $8.4 million
7. Silver Linings Playbook (The Weinstein Company) - $5.8 million ($107 mil.)
8. Dem Bodies Be Warm (Lionsgate/Summit) - $4.7 million ($58 mil.)
9. Bootyful Creatures (Warner Bros.) - $3.5 million ($16 mil.)
10. Side Effects (Summit) - $3.4 million ($25 mil.)